Vandalism investigated as hate crime

Bust of prominent black politician, doctor defaced in Annapolis

July 06, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

A piece of duct tape lying in a flower bed at the foot of the Aris T. Allen statue was all that remained yesterday from an attack with symbols of racial hatred on the Annapolis memorial to the prominent African-American physician and politician.

An Annapolis city police officer spotted the vandalism about 6:30 a.m. on Independence Day - a white pillowcase hood on the statue's head, and Confederate flags taped to its hands. It was being investigated as a hate crime.

"We take this very seriously," said Officer Eric Crane, a city police spokesman.

The hood and flags - Ku Klu x Klan symbols which outraged local civil rights activists hearing about the incident yesterday - were quickly removed by the police.

A coalition of black organizations in Anne Arundel County, RESPECT, will likely offer a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction, said its founder, Clemon H. Wesley.

"People who do ... things like that often brag about it," Wesley said. "The reward might be what it takes to get someone to come forward."

The bronze statue, which stands in a small, meticulously landscaped garden in front of an office park near the intersection of Forest Drive and Chinquapin Round Road, was not permanently damaged. But it has been vandalized before, officials said.

The statue was erected through the efforts of a state committee that also oversaw the renaming of Route 665 as Aris T. Allen Boulevard.

Allen, a Republican, served in the House of Delegates and state Senate, and was the first black candidate nominated for statewide office in Maryland as running mate in the 1978 gubernatorial campaign of J. Glenn Beall Jr. He took his own life in 1991 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Carl O. Snowden, a special assistant to County Executive Janet S. Owens, said he is trying to come up with ways to prevent vandalism to Allen's memorial, including the possibility of moving the statue to Annapolis City Dock or installing better lighting at the current location.

Until arrests are made in such hate-crime incidents, Snowden said, he fears they will continue. "It emboldens others to do it," he said.

"It's very disturbing there's so much hatred in the world," said Allen's widow, Dr. Faye Allen, who worked with her husband in their joint medical practice.

Leonard Blackshear, president of the Annapolis-based Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, said Allen's life is particularly inspirational.

Allen was born in Texas, the product of a broken home, and quit school at age 14. But at 27, he earned his high school diploma and worked his way through Howard University and its medical school, taking part of his training in the Army.

Allen went on to become Maryland's first black Republican Party chairman and Anne Arundel's first black school-board member and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a medical adviser to the federal Health Care Financing Administration.

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